Home > Uncategorized > Have Education Systems Emphatically Embraced Conflict Resolution? I’m Not as Certain as NYTimes Writer Gina Bellafante

Have Education Systems Emphatically Embraced Conflict Resolution? I’m Not as Certain as NYTimes Writer Gina Bellafante

June 4, 2017

NYTimes writer Gina Bellafante’s article on the need for bail reform in juvenile court illustrates the consequences of poverty in our current criminal justice system, where freedom is “…contingent on material well-being”. As Ms. Bellafante notes in “Getting Rid of Bail is Only the Start”, in a nation where 46% of the populous cannot readily access $400 in cash for an emergency, setting $500 bail for a petty crime results in the needless incarceration of many juveniles, in many cases placing them in prison with older criminals.

A statement near the end of her article jumped out at me. After writing eloquently and compassionately about individual case studies where the level of bail seemed daunting and unfair, Ms. Bellafante wrote:

But in cases where people might benefit from the kind of conflict resolution that the education system has so emphatically embraced, the action seems counterproductive.

She didn’t elaborate on this phrase, which didn’t ring true to me. I wrote the following comment:

Have “education systems… emphatically embraced conflict resolution?” I’m not so certain. I’ve read countless articles on how the well-intentioned placement of police in schools had led to a criminalization of typical adolescent behavior. In some cases, the presence of a price officer leads to their intervention in conflicts between children that can result in legal consequences. Schools can only provide the far more effective conflict resolution methods if they have the social workers, counseling staff, and training necessary. Given the choice between good guys with guns and social workers, too many schools embraced “safety” over “well-being”.

Certainly this blog is full of posts illustrating the school-to-prison pipeline that results from placing an officer in schools and advocates alliances between social services and schools and between parents and schools. The concluding paragraphs in Ms. Bellafante’s article implies how such alliances might play out:

The failure to offer adequate social services to the poor leaves them, in many instances, relying on law enforcement to fill the gaps, which puts children needlessly in contact with the legal system and exerts extra stress on the police…

Monica C. Bell, a legal sociologist who is about to join the faculty of Yale Law School, studied poor mothers in Washington and found that even when they distrusted the police they were likely to call them when their children were truant or addicted or seemed drawn to petty crime. Often the outcome was incarceration and profound parental regret.

What if the schools had social workers instead of police and those social workers were available 24/7 to parents who, Ms. Bellafante described turing to police because they were “exhausted” from their work schedules and stress. Might the social workers offer a different kind of solution than a police officer who would necessarily address the issue as a violation of the law as opposed to misconduct that failed to meet the behavior standard set by a parent? Until schools truly emphatically embrace conflict resolution we will never know the answer.

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